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Genetically Engineered Foods Essay

Genetically engineered or genetically modified foods are foods that are simply the result of alteration in the original genes of an organism such as a plant or an animal in order to blot out a characteristic or trait of the original organism. Because this involves the transfer of genes, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are also known as “transgenic” organisms (Robert Sacerich-GMO, Genetically Modified Foods and Conspiracy Theories). GE foods can be contrasted with organic foods which are basically foods which undergo a ‘non-synthetic’ method of processing before distribution to the public. This issue holds immense global importance because it is considered to be an alternative to solving the World Hunger crisis by supplying GE foods to countries with an inadequate supply of food (Anup Shah GE Technologies will solve world hunger; Jeffrey Heit, MD-Genetically Engineered Foods ).

In this paper, the relative advantages and disadvantages of distributing GE foods to the public will be discovered and weighed. The notion of GE technology being the sole alternative to solving World Hunger will also be investigated along with the prospect of using organic food instead of GE food. In the article, Is GE food safe?, Anup Shah argues that although there is a possibility the use of GE foods can be beneficial to the general public, it cannot be said that this will last forever. The importance of this dilemma is being measured by the fact that there is absolutely no scientific proof at the moment to predict the effects of these crops in the foreseeable future, though we might know a great deal about their initial benefits to health and industry. David C. Pack agrees with this point of view and states that man has tampered with the very core of our food supply as part of the continuing quest to “out-do” God.

He goes on to talk about the ‘unpredictability’ of altering genes. Stating in an example that certain genes from a flounder—a fish—have been inserted into tomatoes in order to give them a longer shelf life and that splicing genetic segments of one species into the genes of another could never occur naturally, he goes on to measure the importance of this issue by comparing data from original research work that had been carried out to determine the relative advantages of ‘golden rice’ and ‘soybeans’ compared to the regular varieties available in the market (David C. Pack -Genetically Engineered Foods Why the Controversy?). Jeffrey Heit, MD, in Genetically Engineered Foods confirms that that the use of GE foods might entail a cheap and efficient industrial system but the public might not benefit from it the way we think it will.

For instance, the use of peanut genes in tomatoes might adversely affect people allergic to peanuts and tomatoes being irreplaceable ingredients in almost all kinds of curry based foods aggravate the situation. On the other hand, some authors like Amy Norton argue that Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness and, because it dampens immune system function, leaves children more vulnerable to becoming severely ill from infections. If all children in deprived areas were given enough vitamin A, up to 2.7 million deaths could be prevented each year according to statistics. Genetically engineered capsules rich in vitamin A could be provided to the children in the aforementioned deprived areas. UNICEF has a program to give young children vitamin A capsules twice a year (one capsule is good for a six-month supply of the vitamin).

A range of foods naturally contain vitamin A or vitamin A precursors – from liver, fish oil and eggs to spinach, carrots, mango and red peppers. But again, those foods may either be locally unavailable, depend on season, or be priced beyond what most families in developing nations can afford (Amy Norton- Genetically modified rice a good vitamin A source 14; Janice Jones- Advantages & Disadvantages of Organic Foods). In another article the author, Bryan Walsh talks about the relationship between ‘humane eggs’ and the way the laying hens are brought up or bred. He hints at the possibility of there being something worse than genetic engineering at hand, which is the way animals are brought up in farms, more specifically chickens. Hence, if such a relationship exists then there seem to be more pressing matters at hand than just the apparent side-effects of GE foods (Bryan Walsh-Vital Farms: Raising the Ultra-Organic Egg).

Christie Wilcox adopts a different approach by targeting some of the myths held by people in favor of organic farming as opposed to genetically engineered farming. She talks about how pesticides are used abundantly in organic farming, how organic food is not healthier than GE food and how it is not ideal for the environment; ideas that are common amongst the general public about organic food (Christie Wilcox Myth busting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture). Backing up the aspect that genetically engineered foods are unsafe and should not be distributed to the general public since their after effects have not yet been discovered, Anup Shah states in an article how worldwide polls indicate a high public demand of labeling GE food so as to enable the public to choose their preference of food.

She points out that any failure to do so implies that the public is ignorant. Is it ‘justified’ to keep the public in the dark just because we think the public is too ignorant to grasp the significance of GE food? On the other hand, is it okay to not label food as genetically engineered or not genetically engineered because of the growing apprehension that there will be competition between GE based and non GE based food companies? ( Anup Shah- Public Concerns and Protests on GE Food). While some believe that genetically engineered foods are generally regarded as safe. There has been no adequate testing, however, to ensure complete safety. There are no reports of illness or injury due to genetically engineered foods (Jeffrey Heit, MD- Genetically engineered foods). On the very other end, some people believe that genetically engineered technology is our only hope in abating the ongoing World Hunger problem. However, some people disagree.

The idea that genetically engineered technologies can solve world hunger is ‘unreliable’. It might have the ‘potential’ to abet the ‘developing’ nations in fighting the food crisis but it is amongst the many other alternatives present. A significant number of people in the third world countries are unable to get food because it is expensive, not because it is unavailable. As we can see, the issue of a country’s economy is closely tied with the world hunger problem in this case (Anup Shah- GE Technologies will solve world hunger). There are various questions we need to ask ourselves if we want to determine the ‘safety’ GE food to human beings. In the event that this technology achieves its current aim, who will benefit more, people in need or the people who need more? If we are not able to predict the potential side effects of genetically engineered food, is it safe to miss this one chance to revert poverty or even world hunger for that matter?

If not, then will not taking the leap be worth it in the long run? “One reason why GE technology is being given the go-ahead is that there is a lot of money and profit involved in this. Hence from a business perspective it is more favorable, for example to produce crops that can be resistant to your pesticides (so that you can apply more of them).” Keeping this perspective in mind, is it ‘moral’ to jeopardize the prospect of “hunger free” countries? Does the expression man ‘tampering’ with nature also apply to scenarios in which Genetic engineering has helped the human race develop the food market? (David C. Pack-Genetically Engineered Foods Why the Controversy? David C. Pack)

The author mentions how the cross breeding of seeds needs to be prevented so as to prevent any food anomalies in the industry. Considering how different animals like cows and buffaloes are cross-bred, how justified is it to combine and merge the habits of different animals who are otherwise different in various aspects? Whereas the problem of “World Hunger” is concerned, if it cannot be solved by GE crops and is linked to poverty instead, will the eradication of poverty solve the predicament of world hunger?

If hunger is an effect of poverty where poverty is a political and economic issue then politics influences how it is produced; who it is produced by and for what purposes it is produced. David C. Pack would also agree: “Even the problem of world hunger cannot be solved using this technology since the yield of GM crops is even lesser than that of natural (regular) crops” (David C. Pack -Genetically Engineered Foods Why the Controversy?). In conclusion, nothing can be said with absolute certainty about the pros and cons of using this kind of technology but what can be done in this field is research in order to determine the magnitude of change it is capable of delivering in the long run.

References

•Alexandra Sifferlin -California fails to pass genetically modified foods labeling initiative http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/07/california-fails-to-pass-gm-foods-labeling-initiative/ •Amy Norton Genetically modified rice a good vitamin A source http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_128308.html •Anup Shah -Is GE Food Safe?

http://www.globalissues.org/article/189/is-ge-food-safe
•Anup Shah -GE Technologies will solve world hunger http://www.globalissues.org/article/190/ge-technologies-will-solve-world-hunger •Anup Shah -Public Concerns and Protests on GE Food
http://www.globalissues.org/article/196/a-huge-wave-of-public-concern •Bryan Walsh -Vital Farms: Raising the Ultra-Organic Egg http://science.time.com/2012/10/22/vital-farms-raising-the-ultra-organic-egg/


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